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Tuesday News: Scott Turow given platform at NYT to get his...

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

16 Comments

  1. Liz H.
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 04:18:42

    I’m working on my calm today. Turrow isn’t helping.

    Another interesting article- http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/technology/coursesmart-e-textbooks-track-students-progress-for-teachers.html?hpw

    “Academic and popular publishers, as well as some authors, have dreamed for years of such feedback to direct sales and editorial efforts more efficiently. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are presumed to be collecting a trove of data from readers, although they decline to say what, if anything, they will do with it. ”
    Since the NYT is a home of investigative journalism it would interesting if they would, you know, investigate, and answer that question for us.

    Two other interesting points- How few of the students had any problem with the information being collected; and how ineffective and inaccurate the data collection could potentially be.

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  2. Ella Drake
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 05:14:10

    @Liz H.: This kind of tracking has also come up in the discussions around the kindle book return policy. It is one thing to collect data and churn it behind the scenes with no access to it. Once you provide access to user data (for instance, teachers to track student progress) you open that data to invasion of privacy. You open that data to easier entry points to hackers. You open it to interpretation that could be wrong and yes, inaccuracies. And in general, it just adds more to the trend of what’s already a complete lack of privacy in the digital realm.

    In the case of this particular article, I don’t like the idea of a teacher checking highlights and notes. That would have a blanketing effect on me as a student. It’d be an extra layer of thought on whether I was taking the right notes and would detract from my ability to read the text. I found that article to be troubling.

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  3. SAO
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 06:00:31

    The gist of Turow’s rant is that authors deserve more money, but he hasn’t put any thought into how to achieve that, other than to rant in the NYT.

    Good luck with that.

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  4. Sunita
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 06:50:17

    @Liz H.: That article made my head explode. There is so much wrong with it and in it. Quite apart from the assumption that they are exhaustively measuring “engagement,” which they clearly are not, it’s part of the process of making college more and more like high school, or even elementary school. I tell my students that we’re all adults and if they choose to learn I’ll do everything in my power to make that happen, but I’m not their nanny. They do well and my enrollments don’t seem to have suffered.

    As for the Turow article, my condolences to the many smart and sensible authors who have to battle the widespread impression that he represents their views and interests accurately.

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  5. Anne V
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 06:53:41

    The contrast between Turow and Scalzi – was the AG even heard from in the row about Random House’s predatory contracts for Hydra/Alibi/Flirt? – is interesting, and (surprise!) Turow does not come out of the comparison well.

    @Ella Drake – professors have a lot of influence, and one of the students had, I thought, legitmate concerns about whether the results of the tracking tool would affect how the instructor felt about her in other contexts, such as professional society memberships. I know that students at the business school at the university where I work are markedly more solicitous of instructors who sponsor clubs and assist with development of mentor relationships and internship opportunities.

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  6. Keishon
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 07:11:45

    @Sunita:

    As for the Turow article, my condolences to the many smart and sensible authors who have to battle the widespread impression that he represents their views and interests accurately.

    Ditto. Must be infuriating.

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  7. Nadia Lee
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 07:58:47

    The only thing I sort of agreed w/ Turow was the part about the crappy e-book royalty rate. But that’s about it.

    As for the text-book tracking stuff — I NEVER highlighted textbooks in college, but I could regurgitate all the formulas and theories. So what does that make me?

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  8. Susanna Kearsley
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 08:04:11

    @Keishon:

    @Sunita:

    As for the Turow article, my condolences to the many smart and sensible authors who have to battle the widespread impression that he represents their views and interests accurately.

    Ditto. Must be infuriating.

    Thank you both for recognizing this. It is.

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  9. Ella Drake
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 08:17:51

    @Anne V: Yes. Another reason why this is such a bad idea, because of all the politics involved in academia.

    I am currently taking a lit class. I write comments to myself that are along the lines of, WTF, and is this right? And other irrelevancies I wouldn’t want to share. I could see myself censoring my own comments in this scenario and I’m not sure that’s of any value to me as a student.

    (and okay, I can finally admit to slapping my forehead for getting affect/effect wrong in first comment. Was bugging me!)

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  10. carmen webster buxton
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 09:54:08

    Wasn’t it the Authors’ Guild that signed the settlement deal with Google Books? Seems like hypocrisy to me to carp about everyone else making ebooks.

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  11. Ren
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 10:37:23

    @carmen webster buxton: The Authors’ Guild speaks for all authors about as much as Turow does and is almost as in touch with reality.

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  12. Laura Kinsale
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 16:16:40

    If you’re an author and you don’t like what the Authors Guild does, join it and change that if you have better ideas. They are a professional organization for authors (not publishers or “the industry” whatever that is.) Their goal is to protect and promote authors’ rights. They just recently had a vote for the board. It’s not a lot of executives or lawyers. It’s authors. Plain and simple. Dues are paid by writers, on a voluntarily sliding scale according to writing income. It was created years ago, originally along with the screenwriters, to try to get some leverage for writers against the big studios and publishers. Authors are very small fish in most cases. We have very little leverage, and we are losing what little we ever had to ever larger entities, these days such as Amazon and Google.

    The AG represents authors. That’s what it’s done for decades, long before ebooks or long-tails or the internet for that matter. As to what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” in the current climate, it’s not at all as black and white as it’s often presented here. Dear Author takes the consumer point of view, and that’s fine, but the author’s point of view is often at odds with that, especially as things tilt more and more away from traditional notions of copyright, without anything substantial or clear to replace it.

    Speaking of “Turow’s hating,” there’s a lot of hatin’ that goes on here too, it’s kinda sad and normally I don’t comment. But there are several comments here that suggest all authors must be in total disagreement with Turow and the AG. That’s not true at all. We just may not choose to post here about it.

    I don’t agree with much of what Jane boldly proposes as “right” and “wrong,” especially when it comes to questions like whether ebooks should be sold as “used” copies. I think she’s mistaking digital intellectual property for real property, but I’m not gonna try to argue with a lawyer. I just use common sense, and common sense tells me that a digital file isn’t the same thing as a printed book when it comes to “used” copies.

    As to the google settlement, that wasn’t about ebooks, it was about google’s copying and making available books without the authors’ permission.

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  13. Kinsey
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 18:05:07

    Ms. Kinsale – With all due respect – books aren’t real property. Whether print or pixel, a literary work is a piece of intellectual property. Like you, I don’t see the sense or the purpose in reselling ebooks, but nor do I think an author’s point of view need be at odds with a consumer’s. More books are being sold now than ever before, and I don’t see how that can be bad for authors. I also think the rise of digital publishing and the concomitant explosion of self-publishing are, on balance, very good things for both reader and author. Change is always messy and never without pain.

    Of course, I say all this as an e-pubbed author who plans to self-publish someday and as a lifelong devourer of books who thinks ebooks are the best thing she’s seen since the Internet, which is the best thing she’s seen since sex.

    On an unrelated note: I adore your books. Turow’s, not so much.

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  14. E
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 18:28:43

    If buying digital property is different from physical property, then those selling & providing the content need to stop presenting an e-book and a paperback as the same thing. If a digital item is for my use only, cannot be shared with friends and family, sold or donated and can be legally removed from my personal files without my permission, then it shouldn’t be sold as the same as a physical product which I can share, sell used and would be considered theft if someone took it from me. Sure the content is exactly the same, but it’s not just the format that is different. The inherent value of the product is different.

    I completely understand the concerns of IP owners about the complex issues surrounding digital format. However, I have a hard time being rational when I read things that try to paint me as a bad person for wanting to be able to share something I purchased with my hard earned money.

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  15. farmwifetwo
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 11:39:43

    One thing about these discussions is the black/white views at times in the comments… and my ability to see all directions makes me want to say “yes, no, not that one, but this over here….”.

    IMO print and e are not the same. I appreciate that in today’s world, things are in e – mostly art (books, music, photos etc), but if you are e verses tangible goods, then the rules should be separate. Turow is correct. In today’s world the land of e is one step away from piracy. I wrote an “epic” (ok it was 27pgs but I sent it to all the fed parties and our autism service providers in response to a piece of legislation that thankfully didn’t pass) a few years back and I too, before it got sent out, researched copywrite laws in Canada. It was a lot of work and it wasn’t going to be used elsewhere without permission. Even 27 lousy pages is a lot of work… it’s now over a 100 and I’ll probably never finish it.

    Therefore there needs to be rules for each. Tangible goods can be sold and repurchased without paying the original maker… that’s the way it is whether it’s art or a junky old sofa in a yard sale. The original price is higher and we recognize it as original and pay accordingly. The reused version is priced lower recognizing it’s depreciation with use and age.

    E doesn’t work that way and Turow is correct. How do we know that that e-file Amazon is now selling used was actually sold before? Not slandering Amazon… just playing devil’s advocate I can put “Jim Bob” in for a company name if you wish. The thing is, we don’t know. Therefore I’m not convinced the resell of e property should be allowed. There is no provenance and you would have a hard time proving it. At the same time, those that use that particular medium would have to recognize a price discrimination and sell at a lower price, realizing that they would then have to convince the public to by new all the time. I bought a large portion of Kristen Ashley’s back list because of the price… let’s be honest, most people do not read over 300 books a year and they definately aren’t paying $20 a book to do so.

    Lastly, libraries… Some author’s love them, many hate them. As a 300 book a year reader I can’t live without them. BUT, I can tell you, that it’s an excellent marketing tool if an author uses it as such. I have bought many an authors back list and future works because of a book I read at the library. I read the first 3 JD Robb’s… I own every book in the series. JAK, Laurie R King, Kay Hooper etc. Then there’s the books I borrowed David Eddings, Mercedes Lackey, Catherine Mann, Julie Miller… that again I bought their back and future lists afterwards.

    That 8 book a year reader is nice…. but just remember those of us that read hundreds of books a year… we’re the one’s the post on goodreads and boards like this. We’re the one’s that buy your books at Xmas for our families to read because we may have read them via that library the first time. So you lost one sale at a lower price…. how many did you gain at full price afterwards. Oh… and I taught my Mother how to use a reader… just think of the gift cards and book purchases for Xmas, holidays, her birthday etc…. not just her library reads.

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  16. CG
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 17:20:35

    @farmwifetwo: See, to me print and e are the same, in that the content is the same and it’s the content that I want and what I’m paying for, only the format or manner of delivery is different. No distinction was made between cassette tapes and records when it came to resale, and it was pretty easy to dub a tape. So this argument doesn’t fly for me.

    And I don’t see how hard it would be to give a portion of the proceeds of resold ebooks back to the author; something that can’t be done with print books. Nor do I think it would be hard to establish a mechanism that would distinguish between a “used” ebook and a new ebook, they came up with DRM easily enough. As far as resale, I picture something along the lines of a “new” ebook costing X amount of money and it comes with a limited number of resale opportunities. With each resale the price goes down a certain amount until the resale value is zero. For example, if you buy an ebook new at $25 (hardcover price) and it comes with 5 “resales”, you can turn around and sell it for $15. The next person to purchase it pays, I dunno, say $12 and it has 4 resales left available, they turn around and sell it for $6 with 3 resales left available and so on until the last person to purchase it pays a very discounted price because there are no resales left and the book cannot be resold at this point; kind of like when you purchase a used, clearance-priced print book that can’t be resold due to condition issues. In this ebook resale scenario, the author and publisher continue to make a percentage of each sale. Everyone wins.

    ETA: I only just came up with this off the top of my head, so there are probably issues somewhere. My point is that with a little thinking outside the box instead of barricading yourself inside the box, like it seems certain publishers and authors are wont to do, there are probably any number of solutions where authors, readers, publishers can all benefit from ebooks.

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